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IN THE COURTS | Kansas Judge Refuses To Block Grand Jury Investigation of Planned Parenthood Clinic

IN THE COURTS | Kansas Judge Refuses To Block Grand Jury Investigation of Planned Parenthood Clinic
[Nov. 29, 2007]

Johnson County, Kan., District Judge Kevin Moriarty on Tuesday refused to block a grand jury investigation of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri's Overland Park, Kan., clinic Comprehensive Health to investigate whether the clinic is complying with state abortion laws, the Kansas City Star reports.

Life is for Everyone, a coalition of the antiabortion groups led by Operation Rescue, submitted a citizens petition to convene the grand jury (Carroll, Kansas City Star, 11/27). Kansas is one of six states that allows citizens to petition to empanel a grand jury (Hollingsworth, AP/Joplin Globe, 11/27). The petition calls for a grand jury to investigate whether illegal late-term abortions are performed at PPKM clinics and whether the clinic complies with state laws on the reporting of child abuse or illegally sells fetal tissue. In addition, the coalition wants a grand jury to determine whether PPKM provides "false information in order to induce government action or inaction," abides by parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortion, enforces a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and follows the required standard of care in providing medical advice (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 10/4).

Robert Eye, an attorney for PPKM, said because previous investigations that cleared the clinic of wrongdoing, empanelling the grand jury would border on harassment. Eye also argued that the grand jury would infringe on abortion rights and said the wording of the petition was faulty. Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline (R), who filed the charges against the clinic, said, "Nothing in the Constitution or U.S. Supreme Court precedent states that the woman's right to choose grants corporations the right to engage in illegal activities" (AP/Joplin Globe, 11/27). Kline added, "Planned Parenthood is asking this court to invalidate a lawful petition on the basis that it doesn't like the political positions of those who may have signed the petition" (Kansas City Star, 11/27).

Moriarty rejected PPKM's arguments but agreed to move the date of the hearing to Dec. 10. "The court believes it simply does not have jurisdiction to do anything but to allow the grand jury to proceed," Moriarty said. Peter Brownlie, president of PPKM, said that a motion will be filed no later than Wednesday asking the state Supreme Court to order a Johnson County judge to stop the panel from meeting (AP/Joplin Globe, 11/27). In court documents, attorneys for PPKMM say their appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court will be similar to one filed recently by Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. Tiller's request to stop a Sedgwick County grand jury from investigating him is pending before the state's high court (Kansas City Star, 11/27).